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Published On: Thu, Dec 24th, 2020

Nigerian leaders need to be public spirited, equanimous and apolitical to tackle COVID-19

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By Isaac Asabor

As rightly opined by Oliver Goldsmith, “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day; but he who is battle slain can never rise to fight again.” However, the legendary Bob Marley lyrically put it more explanatorily thus: “Rise up fallen fighters, Rise and take your stance again, it is he who fight and run away, Live to fight another day”.
Analyzed from the foregoing perspective, one can assert with equanimity that Nigeria never ran away from the fight against COVID-19 except that it made plethora of mistakes throughout the period the fight lasted. Simply put, it fought the war wrongly.
There is no denying the fact that Nigerian leaders were somewhat caught unaware on February 27, 2020, when the first official case of COVID-19 was first announced. The patient was an Italian citizen who had recently arrived in Lagos from Europe and who, a few days later, tested positive for the disease. In Ogun state, a neighboring state to Lagos, another patient was identified and was discovered to have been in contact with the first patient.
With the foregoing cases, the stage was set for Nigeria to be in the League of Nations that that were beleaguered with the fight against COVID-19 pandemic that led to sequences of lockdown. The first mistake made by the federal government was that Nigeria’s health system before the pandemic was nearly non-existent. Even at present, Nigeria’s health systems are completely dilapidated in most of the cities as they have not received adequate attention, and to worsen matter, some government officials are not helping matters as they have contributed to health system collapse by encouraging medical tourism. To bluntly put it in this context, Nigeria is ill-prepared to tackle any emergency health situation despite the fact that its health care had suffered several infectious disease outbreaks year after year. According to observers of the country’s health sector, past experiences in infectious disease outbreak would have being enough nudge for leaders in Nigeria’s health sector to be proactive.
Needless to embark on chronicling how Nigerian bungled the fight against COVID-19 with its attendant lockdowns across the country, it is germane in this context to go straight to the point by saying that for the war against pandemic to be won that there is need for our leaders to be public spirited, that is, being selfless, and being of impeccable character and good morals. In short they had to be consecrated, if they don’t mind. To this end, our leaders should during the looming second wave of the pandemic take it upon themselves to organize us so that we remain Safe from the scourge of the pandemic. The essence of the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as the leaders should at this time of COVID-19 demonstrate the fact they choose to serve us and look after our physical and social needs, and advance our collective wellbeing. They are supposed to be public-spirited and passionate about changing their immediate constituencies and making them better for all their constituents.
Diametrically opposed to the foregoing viewpoints, Nigerians, particularly Lagosians will not easily forget that fine and sunny Sunday when vans arrived in the Agege area of Lagos to deliver the COVID-19 palliatives promised by Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa to all his constituents in Agege Constituency 1. Upon discovering that the palliatives donated to them during the COVID-19 lockdown were merely the cheapest brand of bread called “Agege bread” in Lagos, the people, majorly the youths, basically made footballs of the bread and kicked them into the sky. While the loaves were falling from the sky, some of these folks explained that four loaves were given to households, without regard to the number of people in those households. Though the No. 1 lawmaker in Lagos State tried as much as he could to launder his image which the rejected palliatives unarguably dented, but it appears his explanation was not impactful enough.
In a similar vein, Nigerians will not forget how palliatives that were meant for them during the lockdown were stored away without been distributed to them but given to some politicians as in the case of the Lagos politician who intended distributing the items on his birthday. In Osun State, the leadership of Osun Food and Relief Committee on COVID-19 said the items looted by EndSARS Protesters at a warehouse in Ede town were not hoarded, but rather kept for the flag-off of the official distribution. Without any scintilla of hyperbole, the foregoing are explanatory enough to show that most of our leaders are not public spirited. However, to successfully fight the second wave of the COVID-19, they should endeavor to change in the true sense of the word, or else the fight would not be won.
Again, it is not an exaggeration to say that during the recently exited lockdown that political leaders made some rules and regulations that were counterproductive. The reason for the mistake cannot be farfetched as it was very obvious that they were not equanimous in their decisions. For instance, Churches were closed while Markets were partially opened; not minding the fact that both public spaces command similar crowd on a good day. With this, it is not wrong in this context to say that leadership is not for everyone and this quickly becomes evident when leaders make bad decisions.
Again, the fight against COVID-19 should not be politicized just as it was done during the lockdown; while some politicians in the opposition party at any given opportunity, during the lockdown, faulted virtually all the efforts the ruling party, the APC exerted in the fight against COVID-19. On the other hand, affiliates of the APC saw the fight as a pedestal of scoring political point. The foregoing was not unexpected as politicization of pandemics is not a new. Even at that, the looming fight ahead of the second wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria demands that our leaders get rid of it, and remain apolitical throughout the period the fight would last. In fact, history is replete with cases that point to the fact that pandemics were politicized and used for ideological and political interests.
It is expedient to note at this juncture that this view could not have being expressed at a more auspicious time than now, particularly as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, has on Monday, December 21, 2020 disclosed at the regular briefing in Abuja that due to the recent spike in the rate of COVID-19 infections that the Federal Government has approved partial lockdown across the country.
This lockdown comes as Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas this week. According to Mustapha, the advisory issued to sub-national entities for implementation over the next five weeks include the immediate closure of all bars, night clubs, pubs, event centres, and recreational venues.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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